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Women's health status and gender inequality in China


  • Yu, Mei-Yu
  • Sarri, Rosemary


This paper examines the health status of women in China by reviewing levels and trends of female mortality at several phases of a woman's life cycle focusing on infancy, girlhood, childbearing and old age. The mortality rates of Chinese women and men are compared for the period 1950-1990 as are comparisons with women in selected countries. The cause-specific death rate, expressed as a percentage of all deaths, and the burden of disease, measured in terms of the disability-adjusted life years (DALYs), are used to reflect the changing patterns of female diseases and causes of deaths. Significant improvement in the health status of Chinese women since 1950 is widely acknowledged as a major achievement for a developing country with the largest population in the world, but the differentials in women's health by region and urban/rural areas are considerable. The Physical Quality of Life Index (PQLI) indicates that the overall level of physical well-being of Chinese women has increased in recent decades, but disparity in health between men and women still exists. The Gender-Related Development Index (GDI) further reveals that China has achieved significant progress in women's health during the past four decades, but far less has been achieved with respect to gender equality overall. The final sections of the paper focus on the discussion of some health problems faced by the female population during the process of economic reform since the 1980 s. In order to promote gender equality between women and men, concerns on women's health care needs are highlighted.

Suggested Citation

  • Yu, Mei-Yu & Sarri, Rosemary, 1997. "Women's health status and gender inequality in China," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 45(12), pages 1885-1898, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:45:y:1997:i:12:p:1885-1898

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    Cited by:

    1. Li, Jian & Yang, Wenjie & Cho, Sung-il, 2006. "Gender differences in job strain, effort-reward imbalance, and health functioning among Chinese physicians," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 62(5), pages 1066-1077, March.
    2. repec:kap:jfamec:v:38:y:2017:i:2:d:10.1007_s10834-016-9506-3 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Ding, Weili & Zhang, Yuan, 2014. "When a son is born: The impact of fertility patterns on family finance in rural China," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 30(C), pages 192-208.
    4. Almas Heshmati & Biwei Su & Seon-Ae Kim, 2015. "Measurement and Analysis of Well-Being in Developed Regions in China," China Economic Policy Review (CEPR), World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., vol. 4(01), pages 1-22, June.
    5. Luo, Juhua & Zhang, Xiulan & Jin, Chenggang & Wang, Dongmin, 2009. "Inequality of access to health care among the urban elderly in northwestern China," Health Policy, Elsevier, vol. 93(2-3), pages 111-117, December.
    6. Lee, Yiu-fai Daniel, 2008. "Do families spend more on boys than on girls? Empirical evidence from rural China," China Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 19(1), pages 80-100, March.


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